Tags: America's Forum | David Rutherford | VA | Tricare

Former SEAL: VA Failing Veterans

By    |   Wednesday, 11 March 2015 12:49 PM

While suicide is an "unfortunate reality" of the effects of war, the Department of Veterans Affairs is aggravating the problem by failing to provide veterans adequate care and support once they return home, according to former Navy SEAL David Rutherford, author of "Navy SEAL Training: Self-Confidence: Froglogic Field Manual for Adults."

During an appearance Wednesday on Newsmax TV's "America's Forum," Rutherford said he lost more than 65 teammates in combat in 14 years, and a total of 88 SEAL team members have died in training or by suicide.

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Far too many soldiers are taking their own lives because the help they needed was not available, Rutherford said.

"This is a systemic problem that has developed because of the magnitude of this bureaucracy," he said. "I have a friend … who drank himself to death as a result of not being able to find the adequate treatment he needed from 20-plus years of service in the SEAL team.

"I have other friends that are out, that are struggling right now with alcohol, opiate addiction, all these things, and they're just not finding the right solutions. The VA is struggling and what's happening is these guys are literally tired of treading water and they're drowning."

For starters, Tricare, the military's healthcare program, needs to expand coverage, according to Rutherford.

Hyperbaric treatment at advanced specialty clinics to treat traumatic brain injury should be made readily available, Rutherford suggested, and vets need to be allowed to see psychiatrists that aren't in the military system, or are off base, so there is not stigma attached "to not being combat ready."

"There's a whole slew of things, but the primary one is open up Tricare so people can get outside, better care than the VA is capable of providing," he said.

VA employees should be held to the same performance standards as the veterans they are serving, Rutherford said.

"Government employees become so protected by rules and regulations that the ability to get rid of people that are fundamentally problematic to their core to the advancement of any true help, they just can't get rid of them," said Rutherford.

"We (SEALs) have an 80 percent dropout rate because when a person doesn't rise to the occasion and can't perform at the level they need to perform at, boom, they're gone. They either drop on request or we get rid of them. That needs to be the standard at the VA."

Leaving the armed forces after serving in combat is emotionally crippling for many soldiers, Rutherford said, and if feelings of isolation and the loss of camaraderie are not dealt with, suicidal thoughts can develop.

"Many of my friends are still on the front lines at the highest possible places you can operate, and I just want them to be supported," he said.

"How they need to be supported — I want to have the backing of the government behind them, I want to have the support through the VA for when they come home and they have to deal with 17 concussions or all the other traumas of going into warfare. I want that service provided so they can focus on doing the job they're being asked to do."

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The VA is failing to provide veterans adequate care and support once they return home, according to former Navy SEAL David Rutherford.
David Rutherford, VA, Tricare
Wednesday, 11 March 2015 12:49 PM
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